Australian television’s longest running drama series Neighbours embraces cultural diversity.
Neighbours is to add an indigenous Australian actor to its main cast for the first time in its 29-year history. Meyne Wyatt will make his debut as Nate Kinski in an episode of the soap opera to be shown in Australia on Aug 13. His character has a link to Ramsay Street mainstay Susan Kennedy, who was married to Kinski’s uncle in the show.
While indigenous actor Tony Briggs appeared on Neighbours in 1987, Wyatt will be the first indigenous Australian to join the main cast of the show, which is set in the fictional Melbourne suburb of Erinsborough.
The 24-year-old was born in the remote Western Australian city of Kalgoorlie. He took up acting while at boarding school and has appeared on stage and in films, including Tim Winton’s The Turning and Strangerland, which also stars Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes and Guy Pearce.
Neighbours is the longest running drama series on Australian television and one of the country’s most successful TV exports, but it has been criticised for its overwhelmingly white cast.
A storyline in 1993 involved the Lim family, of Asian background, being accused of eating another family’s pet dog. It was not until 2011 that the first family of Indian background entered the all-white street. The arrival of the Kapoors provoked some viewers to complain it was “un-Australian”.
Susan Bower, a writer and producer for Neighbours, claimed she wanted to move a Lebanese Muslim family into Ramsay Street at the same time, but the production company “felt it might be too much too soon”.
Jason Herbison, the series producer, said Wyatt was an exceptional young actor. “We feel very privileged to have him join our regular cast,” he said. “From his first audition, we knew we had found the best actor for the role. While cultural diversity is definitely important, in cases where we don’t need a specific ethnic background, our brief to agents is to put forward their best people and that was the case for this character.”
Channel Ten, the show’s Australian broadcaster, said Neighbours “has always nurtured and supported young talent and we are thrilled that Meyne is joining the team”.
Wyatt, who has relocated to Melbourne to rub shoulders with afternoon TV favourites Lou Carpenter and Karl Kennedy – played by Tom Oliver and Alan Fletcher – said: “Playing footy was usually the first preference at school so I was in a very small group who pursued acting, although I still managed to play footy, which I enjoyed too.” — Guardian News & Media